This post is all about – you guessed it – my tried and true French macaron recipe and troubleshooting! While tasting my way through Paris, France, I became obsessed with the French pastry, learned the craft from a chef at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and the rest is history! Read on for what to do – and what not to worry about – when baking macarons at home.
To be blatantly honest, I once baked macarons nonstop for the three weeks. Macaron madness, if you will. In all seriousness, my obnoxious obsession developed years ago when I first laid tongue and tooth on them at the original Ladurée patisserie in Paris, France.
The delight of a French macaron
Macarons are delightful, and are often filled with silky, sweet buttercream. The delicate French pastries are lightly crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and melt like butter in your mouth.
As easy to bake as chocolate chip cookies (well, almost)
And I’m here to tell you crafting French macarons is no different than baking American chocolate chip macarons from scratch. You simply need the proper know how. All of the fuss about how scary, temperamental and touchy macarons are is a bit silly. I believe the problem is excessive over-thinking. Myself included.
What not to do with your macarons
Since there is plenty of “how to make French macarons” out there, here’s my professional opinion of what not to do.
Don’t let your oven deceive you
Macaron Fail #666
In my defense, my oven was lying to me this particular time. If you’re serious about baking anything, however, you need to give your oven a dose of veritaserum. Buy a cheap oven thermometer, and be sure you’re getting to the right temperature.
Keep your toothpicks in check
Macaron fail #999
I once poked at tiny air pockets with a toothpick before baking. And you will find plenty of macaron bloggers and vloggers who recommend this.
Don’t do this.
Take a few batches to refine your piping skills, and save your toothpicks for devils on horseback.
One baking temperature is enough
Many macaron-obsessed bakers follow the Martha Stewart mantra of preheat to 375° F. Then turn down to 325° F when the macarons hit the heat. Then repeat before each batch. Pierre Hermé recommends opening and closing the oven door at key times during baking.
OMG. No to both. Most home ovens would go into shock. Set it at 300° F and rotate the pans halfway through baking. The rest of the time let them be. Seriously.
Bake + learn
The not so secret critical element here is technique. Which if you’re misinformed, can be impossible to harness. After the above pictured fails (and a thousand others not shown), I respectfully demanded my pastry instructor at the CIA (culinary institute, not central intelligence) convey the finer art.
He graciously did. And the five steps that follow are all you need to achieve great macaronage technique. Seriously.
How to make French macarons, seriously
In the spirit of full disclosure, even when you follow all five steps exactly, your collective batch of macarons might not emerge from the oven as you hoped. There are so many factors that can affect macarons. An undetected air bubble here, a hidden clump of almond flour there, or an oven that just won’t hold temperature.
What not to do is to get upset about it, and throw ugly but perfectly edible macarons in the trash (do as I say, not as I do). Do you really think all those Instagrammers out there would post photos of a not-so-perfect-but-still-delicious macaron? Non. They won’t.
So if you decide to try your hand at Parisian macarons, harness patience and perspective. Buy an oven thermometer, a cheap digital scale for accurate measuring, and a small, round pastry tip.
Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged if your first batches don’t bake up perfectly. Because regardless of appearance, they will all taste wonderfully light and deliciously sweet. Seriously.
The (only) five musts for French macarons
If you’re making your own almond flour, grind the almonds with the powdered sugar. If you’re using packaged almond flour, a minute or five in the food processor with the powdered sugar won’t hurt, either. It’s also a great way to infuse macaron shells with a punch of citrus.
If you don’t have a food processor, just sift the almond flour and powdered sugar a few times. Discard what’s left in your sifter or sieve after each round.
#2: Whip it, whip it good.
Give the egg whites and granulated sugar a piece of your mind on high speed for around 5 minutes. The meringue answers to you, not the other way around.
Once you can play tilt-a-whirl with the bowl and the meringue stays put, beat one more minute for good measure, and call it peaked. Think shaving cream. Or grab a kid and make them hold the bowl over their head, if the meringue doesn’t slime them, it’s ready!
If your egg whites look lumpy, separated and are weeping, you took it too far. I typically beat the whites a minute or two until they foam, then on high speed for around five minutes.
floor batter is lava!? Go for a shiny batter that makes ribbons off the spatula
Fold the dry ingredients in a couple rounds into the meringue, folding gently but firmly. Giving it a good stir every few strokes. It should be smooth and shiny, but not runny. This is what the French call macaronage. Just kill me now.
Properly folded batter will settle itself into flat circles within a few seconds of piping. Testing a small drop of batter on a plate is a great way to see what you’ve got.
#4: Pipe concise
In this macaron-obsessed era you can buy specialty silicon baking mats printed with uniform circles. When I first began baking macrons, no such tools existed.
If you’re just starting out and want a little guidance, simply use a dixie cup or similar 1-2-inch round item, and trace evenly-spaced circles on parchment. Don’t forget to put the marked side down on your sheet pan, lest you end up with inked macarons.
Then hold the piping bag vertical and above the lined baking sheet. My pastry instructor, Chef Spiess, instructed “start where you want to finish”. In other words, hold the bag above the pan so the batter fills in around the tip.
Squeeze until you’ve reached your desired size, then stop squeezing, and whip in a small circular motion. This is the one part that takes practice. Plan for the batter to end up all over your sheet tray the first several times. Seriously.
#5: Give ’em a rest.
In full disclosure when I first published this guide, I described in detail how resting macarons is overrated. I still think it is to a degree, but I’ve learned from experience it’s also great insurance.
Drying out the tops of the shells helps them rise when they hit they oven, and maintain a smoother dome shape. Truth be told, however, I often toss a full sheet pan of macarons straight into the oven, and succeed with 95% of the shells. It’s a matter of degrees, pun intended.
See the afterthoughts below for more research on resting. Don’t let any baker pretend they don’t get an ugly mac or two (or five) with every batch. You’ll always get a few that don’t turn out, those are for quality control. Wink, wink. And the only way to make French macarons. 😉
Thoughts on food coloring
On principle, macarons are literally the only treat I use artificial food coloring in. And in recent years I’ve come to use much less. Artificial colors like Red 40 are not très bien.
I’ve experimented with food-based colors for macarons and they either lose tint in the oven, or require an amount that over-liquifies the batter. If you know a great plant-based food coloring gel that is heat-proof, I’d love to learn about it! Do send me a note at email@example.com.
My meringue method
This recipe calls for the French meringue method – simply whipping the egg whites with granulated sugar. Many macaron recipes online call for the Italian meringue method, but I find this one much simpler and even more reliable.
Italian meringue requires drizzling boiling simple syrup into the egg whites while whipping. Essentially more steps, more dirty dishes, and more to master. I’ve never noticed any discernible difference in the results. Chef’s promise.
- 180 g confectioner’s sugar
- 108g almond flour (or blanched, slivered almonds)
- 3 egg whites (90g)
- 45g granulated sugar
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- Food coloring, gel recommended (liquid loosens your batter)
- Flavoring + extracts, i.e. vanilla, lavender, citrus zest, etc.
- 2 eggs, large
- ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 8 oz butter, unsalted, room temperature, cut into small pieces
For macarons shells
- Line two baking pans with parchment or silicone baking mats.
- Grind almonds or almond flour with confectioner’s sugar in a food processor. I let it grind while I beat the egg whites.
- Combine the egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or with hand mixer).
- Whip on high speed to a stiff meringue, meringue will be shiny and stick to the bottom if you flip it upside-down.
- Add vanilla extract/beans or vanilla bean paste, and whip a few seconds more.
- Sift the dry ingredients little by little directly into the meringue, folding gently but firmly.
- Fold until it flows like lava, combined, but not over-mixed.
- Transfer to a piping bag (or large plastic bag) fitted with a quarter-inch tip, pushing the bottom of the bag into the tip so it doesn’t leak.
- Pipe onto a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Optional: Let the piped macarons rest on the counter for 30 to 40 minutes, or up to two hours. The shell will turn from shiny and sticky, to smooth and dull. You’ll be able to touch the top without damaging it.
- Bake at 300° F for about 16 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through baking.
- Cool a few minutes before removing from baking mat or parchment.
- Fill with buttercream and store chilled for 24 hours before serving.
- In a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil, and cook until it reaches 234° F on a candy or meat thermometer. Sans thermometer, it usually on takes a minute or two of boiling to become hot enough).
- While syrup boils, beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl on medium speed. When syrup reaches temperature, slowly drizzle into eggs, avoiding beater or whisk attachment (if using stand mixer). Beat on high until room temperature. Add butter in several additions, and beat until smooth.
- The buttercream may appear broken (curdled), but keep beating and it will smooth out. Add extract or liqueur to taste. Store refrigerated, and bring to room temperature to use leftovers (it may need another beating to smooth out after being refrigerated).
I dare not add notes to this recipe! For all manner of tips, tricks and troubleshooting, do scroll up!
Keywords: French macarons, French macaron recipe
The so-called resting requirement
Many of the overexposed macaron authorities claim you must rest your piped batter prior to baking. This is absolutely not true. Just ask my pastry instructor, Rudy Speiss (he’s Swiss, so he stays pretty neutral), and see exhibit A.
Exhibit A: Baked immediately.
However, I do find success in resting, as in exhibit B.
Exhibit B: Same batch (moved after baking). Half rested, half not.
C’est la vie!
So in sum I advise thinking of this step as insurance against anything that could be slightly off in your process. Whether your oven is feisty, or your macaronage is a little rough. However, if your meringue is weak and you butcher the folding process, no amount of resting (or tapping for that matter) will save your macarons. Eat them anyway, seriously.
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Sit, stay, drool with Sadie Mae
Interested at first, but not excited by resting macarons. And I don’t blame one sweet bit.